Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I confess, I'm hooked.

I love to write. 

I'm close to keying the words "The End" on the first manuscript that has potential, thanks to great mentors, classes, books, crit partners, writing friends, blogs...**News flash--as of the night before this post hit your computer--I finished!!

The question of the day is, will my beginning hook readers into turning pages?

Actually, depending on a reader's mood, the time of day, current crisis and joys, and a thousand other components like brand of chocolate, hooking a reader into our story can be a complex issue.

But, maybe today, you will gleam a helpful tool to smooth the complex into simple.

Tips to Writing a Good Hook

1. Start your story with the most intriguing situation.

     For example: Say you wanted to write a story about a young woman's struggles.
 The story begins:  A young woman left work and is enroute to a restaurant where she plans to spend the last night with her fiancee before he is deployed. She discovers she is out of gas. She zooms into the gas station to put in a few gallons to hold her over until tomorrow.

Time to play the "what if game"

What if this story started instead with a teaser.  A teen, pulls into the gas station. She hopes there is money left in her account. Jena reaches into the car to get her debit card, and suddenly feels strong labor pains. The baby wasn't due for three more weeks. Her sister and mother would arrive the next day. She had no social supports to call in the area and the only person at the gas station was the attendant who had headphones on. Jena is frightened, has no money, and doesn't know what to do.

In this case, we could start with the teen's plight, just enough to stir the reader's curiosity. Briefly build the scene with Jena's emotional conflict then break away to the woman's point of view. 

   For example: Angie leaves work, is caught in rush hour and notices the gas tank is on empty (she forgot to fill it that morning). Her fiancee received a call for deployment to Afghanistan. Since he would leave late that night he made reservations at the best restaurant for dinner. She stops at a gas station.

Inside the car at the pump in front of her is a female screaming. She goes to car and finds a distraught 19-year old woman. The woman shouts, "My baby is coming! Please help me." The only other person at the station is the gas attendant. I could call an ambulance and still have plenty of time to get to the restaurant. But she remembers the night her baby suddenly came, that horrible night several years ago when she was all alone ....

Now the two are brought together and the story can move forward, building conflict, growing characters, thickening subplots and deepening the overarching plot.

Igniting the perfect hook is like braiding hair or weaving yarn. It takes many pieces woven together to give a strong beginning and hold the story together. The chosen first piece rests on the bottom--not the top, it provides the underlying strength. It cannot stand alone. When the viewer sees the product the chosen first doesn't stand out. However, without the chosen first, there would not have been a hook, or a good product.

Camy Tang once mentored me with these words: "You need to start your story at __________ instead." Wow! Once I followed her instructions, my hook sounded good.

My next post, in two weeks, will continue this topic.

Have you found the perfect place to start your story?


Image by:
and Mary Vee

This blog post is by Mary Vee

Mary lives in Montana with her husband and loves to hear from her three college kids. She writes Christian young adult fiction (pirate tales, missionary and Bible adventure stories).
She thinks of writing as: Stepping into Someone Else's World.
To learn more about Mary, visit her blog


Anonymous said...

Great post, Mary! Hooking is not an easy thing, but oh-so important. I don't know that I ever really hit the mark with a great hook, but it is fun to try to come up with outrageous ideas to get the reader turning the page. :)

Soooo...did you finish?????

Jeanne T said...

Wow, I was with you as you built the hook. Thanks so much! I don't think I've landed my hook yet. When I go back to do some re-writes, I'm going to focus more on that. :) Thanks for the tips.

Mary Vee Writer said...

YES!! I did finish!!
Snoopy happy dance.
Now the edits.....including the elusive hook.:)

Mary Vee Writer said...

I am far from accomplished in the hook. They say you learn more when you teach. Well, guess what my greatest need area in my Prattler, yup, my hook.
Still lamenting.
Still learning.

Casey said...

I LOVE hooks.

I love writing them.

I love reading them.

I'm obsessed with getting my hooks just right and I like to take them one step further into each chapter beginning.

The hook for my latest story is: "Too young to die. Too old to live. 29. Ellie thought she would hate that number forever"

For now it works. We'll see what future edits hold. ;)

Mary Vee Writer said...

How timely that this post related to the My Book Therapy chat class from Monday, eh?
I love your hook.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Ah beginnings. I've been rewriting mine forever it seems. But I think I'm getting close. I think. :)

Great post, Mary!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Yeah, Sarah!
It's difficult to feel pleased with the beginning. There is so much riding on it.

Laura S. said...

My beginnings are always changing! I think that's okay as long as I get it right in revisions. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

I agree. I work to peel off one more layer in each revision until I finally expose the right one. Thanks for stopping by.

Pepper said...

Dancing for you!

And I LOVE hooks. Love them!!! There are only a very few of my novels where i feel like I started at the BEST place to hook the reader...the others? Well, that's why they're called WORKS IN PROGRESS :-)

Boy, do I have a "mama look' in that picture, or WHAT! :-)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Err...hooks are not my forte! I usually write the story and then someone comes along and says, hey, you should start the story here instead. I need to get this right one day :)

So awesome you finished your story! Congratulations!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks for letting me use this pic, Pepper and Casey. You were both good sports.

Works in Progress...I like that. And when the hook is master its called PUBLISHED...whoot whoot

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks Cindy
Looks like I write stories like you.
Get those words down, then let our wonderful crit partners help.